Replication key to globalization, strategist tells HDMA attendees

The global economy has never been bigger, stronger or faster growing than right now, Dr. Thomas PM Barnett, bestselling author and forecaster of global conflict, told attendees at the Heavy Duty Dialogue in Las Vegas. At the same time, poverty worldwide has dropped more in the last 25 years than the previous 500 and the planet has never been more peaceful on a per capita basis.

Countries connected to this global economy, what Barnett calls “core” countries, have stable governments and rising standards of living. “Core” countries include North America, much of South America, the European Union, Russia, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

In Barnett’s terms, “gap” countries are those least connected to the global economy. These are often the same countries the U.S. military has gone into since the Cold War. Although the line between “core” and “gap” countries shifts, current gap countries include the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia and much of Southeast Asia.

Shrinking the gap between these two classifications is key to globalization, which Barnett calls “a series of successful replications.” The United States was built with European money and then “we went on to replicate our success in Asia.” Africa is going to be modeled on India, which is a knock-off of China, he said.

Even countries, such as Iran, that may appear to be a threat to our security, can be neutralized by connecting them to the global economy. “We empowered Iran and now they can veto our efforts at stability throughout the region,” he said. But rather than “try to go after them with the hard kill,” Barnett said we should “infect them with connectivity. The public loves us, the leaders hate us. Don’t give up the biggest asset we have.” A case in point: 70 percent of Iran’s population is under 30. “They want their MTV. I say let’s screw them as much as possible with that kind of stuff,” he said.

The key to successfully integrating emerging countries into the global economy is to have a plan for going in after a conflict, regime change or natural disaster, with private investment, rather than government aid which does nothing to create jobs or economic viability. Barnett calls this: “development in a box. I’ll give you a razor so I can sell you the blades,” he said. Or, sell you a cell phone cheap to sign you up for plan. The Chinese have this down.”

Going forward, China will become an even more important player on the world stage, Barnett said. China “is following America’s development timeline from the late 1800s to 2000,” he said, with women joining the workforce in record numbers, a sexual revolution and a construction boom, all going on simultaneously.

Barnett predicts an unprecedented amount of investment in infrastructure in emerging markets between now and 2030. China is building roads at a tremendous rate and will have the equivalent of our interstate system by 2020, he said.

As countries like China become more affluent, their diet changes. “That’s why the cost of a gallon of milk is more than the price of a gallon of gas,” he said. Increased agricultural production in China is already threatening the country’s water table. “We’re going to see development of much more extensive supply chains,” he said. “We need to improve connectivity in the flow of food.”

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